@Vox/Eiger Studios, Leeds, 02/05-04/05/2014
The day has finally arrived. ‘Kin Hell Fest 2014 is to start today. The sun in shining, anticipation is full to bursting, and nothing can throw a spanner in the works. But family life so often gets in the way, and then there’s the issue of public transport. In the end, everything conspires for me to only arrive around 4:00pm. As a result, I miss the opening salvo of bands that get this festival properly underway. So apologies to Death Tripper, Ephemeral Foetus, and Pist, all of whom I never made it in time for.
Thankfully, I’m not to miss any of the remaining undercard and, having finally arrived and newly armed with a couple of tins of Guinness, it’s time to watch Necro Deathmort. The London duo play it slightly safe, sticking to the doomier side of their material, rather than the electronic stuff, most of which seems to be washed out by the constant reverberations from their guitars. That said, it is satisfying stuff and ‘Insecto!’ gets a great airing. It feels like the soundtrack to those forever falling dreams/nightmares, such is the sense of helplessness emitted from the vocalists’ yells. From one end of the country to the other, as Fife quartet Iniquitous Savagery bring the weekend’s first dose of slam death metal, chucking in lots of sub-guttural vocals and provoking some silly slam dancing in the pit – no feet being flailed though so it’s all good. Merely lots of invisible oranges and arms being jerked in near-robotic fashion which by the end almost induces a full on pit. As for the band, it’s decent stuff and with time I expect they’ll develop into even more brutal territory.
Haar live up to their name by filling the stage and front floor area with billowing machine smoke before they get going. It feels as though it takes a while before they really get going as well – as a modern proggy black metal band focused on their sound as opposed to showmanship, the occasionally angular riffs don’t feel like a most comfortable fit for this crowd, but eventually it stirs into something more and given a little more time this could well have proven to be a truly enthralling experience. Not such a problem for Evisorax keep it really brief – about 15 minutes, well below their allotted schedule – and it’s at this point that for myself, at least, the spark is lit and the crowd don’t need an invitation to go nuts just as the band’s vocalist paces up and down, jumping into the crowd once or twice, and at one point instructing individuals in the pit ‘kill him! to stir up the raucousness. When new song ‘Locust Breeders’ ends the set, it leaves everyone wanting more, which it seems the band didn’t have tonight. A minor shame, as this band took the day by the scruff of the neck and shook it senseless.
From the fast, to the slow, Oxford quartet Undersmile bring the pace right down with some of the finest doom/drone riffs you’ll likely hear this weekend, led by their two chanteuses whose collective drawls work in tandem to further propel the sense of slow motion sickness. There’s an art to watching this sort of music particularly as it drags on, bar a faster section that comes from nowhere late on, but there’s no way that Undersmile are boring or tiring. It’s an intriguing thirty five minutes.
Technical gremlins are afoot as Ingested prepare, leading to the first delay in the schedule. Fifteen minutes later, they start up and purge on for thirty minutes of ridiculous slam-death action. This time it’s a full on circle pit that gets their slam on and you can tell just how crazy Leeds are for this band.
Pentagram Chile will forever go down as one of those magic moments for this fest in my book. A UK exclusive and if you missed it, you missed out. Anton Reisenegger and crew are bang on form with their ripping old-school death metal. Tomas Lindberg joins them at one point and after slam riffs and drones all day, it’s good to hear a guitar squeal as Anton lets rip through the course of the set with wailing solos sandwiched between some of the finest death metal riffs to have been unleashed from the vault of metal history. 28 years is a long, long time to get your band up and running, but Pentagram are worth the wait and any true metal fan will realise their importance. More so now.
Of course, the band everyone is here to see is Napalm Death, and after a further delay – as all major headliners seem to incur – the biggest name in grind walk on stage and follow the opening ‘Multinational Corporations’ with ‘The Silence is Deafening’, and at that moment I’m as close as I’m willing to get to the stage without being annihilated. This is all top stuff – no barriers, it feels like an old-school show in the sense that bodies are flying everywhere. There was a brief stoppage during ‘Unchallenged Hate’ when Barney noticed someone on the floor and called for first aid. A few minutes later, everything appeared to be OK, and the song appropriately resumed smack in the middle, and all went nuts again. The ‘Utilitarian‘ material gets a good thrashing as ‘Everyday Pox’, ‘The Wolf I Feed’ and ‘Errors in the Signals’ all serve as further incitement to jump around and stage dive. Sadly I can’t stick around much longer than that owing to the last train home. Still, I leave following the end of a brutally urgent ‘Suffer the Children’ and the jog back to the train station as all the more worthwhile having witnessed another show of urgency and rage from the definitive band of the scene’s thirty years of existence.
This means I didn’t catch any of the last three bands either, including Famine, who by the time I’d left had nearly sold out of their limited editions of their new CD, each packaged in a coloured envelope with a different design. I have it on good authority from my long time co-conspirator Mike though that Lock Up were excellent, and that A Storm of Light, a last minute coup for the festival, played out a decent set, although the crowd by now had dropped owing to the early hours.
In the end, it turns out I did get to seeTrudger, and boy am I glad the schedule got moved back a little. Initially I can’t hear the vocals but that’s soon fixed and the lead guy is definitely a gruff growler. But they’ve got some cracking riffs, and the first time they properly drop the doomhammer, wow. They’ve know how to drop it.
Gets Worse are a tight, solid powerviolence band, but really need a bigger crowd or a smaller room to create an atmosphere of any sort, at this time of day at least. Not so much an issue for Wizard’s Beard whose guitarist and vocalist perform almost entirely on the floor in front of the stage. The descriptions of them as redefining heavy aren’t far wrong. The rhythm section – including two bassists – supports the floor duo in laying the thick foundation for their colossal riffage to unfold, the vocalist in particular really getting into it as he paces the floor, rocks out uncontrollably and at one point throttles himself with the mic lead. The last song of their set sees the band yell out loud in unison without the need for a microphone. This is without question – discounting anyone playing a blinder on the Sunday* – one of the sets of the weekend.
It never occurred to me that Keighley heavy metallers Arkham Witch had pulled out before the fest began, so it’s left to Monolithian to follow that up the previous set. The bass/drum duo from Falmouth do this very well, however, making up what they lack in numbers in sheer energy and power, combining sludge and doom riffs with some occasional injections of blackened crust. If you weren’t rocking out to this you obviously weren’t trying hard enough.
Upon re-entering the room it’s not the death metal troupeAcrania setting up, rather Dutch grind two-piece Jesus Cröst. Turns out Acrania pulled out as well, so now the bill is running ahead of schedule. This is my first time seeing Jesus Cröst, and it will be mine, and indeed everyone’s last – as they explain to the crowd, they chose to finish their career as a band in Leeds in tribute to Heresy, who also finished their career in Leeds. And so they thrash away through some of tightest grind going, with stop-start intervals and occasional signals from the drummer to incite a bit more from the crowd, who are getting down to the fast jams coming from the stage. It doesn’t take long for them to complete their set and depart from the stage for good – but wait. Cröst allow themselves an encore, and asking the crowd to give them the biggest circle pit Leeds has ever seen, they get a half decent effort followed by what has to be the first attempt I’ve ever seen of a human pyramid in the middle of a pit. It collapses upon the eighth person climbing atop the foundation, unable to sustain. But truth be told, the anarchy below is a fitting farewell to the duo, who certainly made a few new friends tonight just by being nice. And playing awesome grind. Good luck and adieu.
Whatever issues Grave Miasma had before starting up, seemingly with the cab? I’m no expert. Whatever the case, it eats into the time gained from Acrania’s cancellation so we’re back on schedule by the time they start up. It all seems ultra professional – incense sticks, goat skulls, band members in fake blood – but let’s not mock, these guys are the real deal in old school death metal, shredding riff after riff, in completely fist pumping, chest-beating glory. Pound for pound one of the tightest line-ups this fesyicalThe crowd get right into it, which sadly can’t be said for Deviated Instinct. It’s a relatively sparse crowd for them and there’s no lack of effort on their part, but whatever shenanigans are going on at the front of the pit, you get the feeling not everyone’s paying attention, for which a band so influential deserve better.
There’s still much japing around at the front when Hawk Eyes step up, but they seem to be engaging the crowd more at least, owing to being the most rock friendly act on the bill. They show why they’re one of the best rock acts in the country right now and their singer brings down the mic stand to floor level and moves it around at various points in the song to continue his performance amidst the raucous crowd. Though that act in itself is a prelude to Khuda, who may not be the biggest name on the bill but their name and reputation in these parts meant this was always going to be a special moment, and just as they did in 2011 when they played the original KHF, they set up in the middle of the floor and for one last time for this festival they play an incredible set. Encircled by the crowd, they jam out a fantastic set punctuated by some crunching and occasionally lovely chilled riffs, and tip top drumming, combining in superb fashion at the end with possibly the most beautiful way to close out a set of such intimate surroundings.
Time continues to tick away, however, and in the end Anaal Nathrakh are too long setting up for myself to feel it worth sticking around to judge them purely one one song, and so it was away for my train home I would go. And thus, missing out on Birdflesh, The Day Man Lost, and the not-so-secret band Sloth Hammer. That is where our coverage of proceedings here ends.
Hang on, you ask. Where is Sunday’s coverage? Well, my time is so often divided up between my family, work, running, and indeed this festival at this time of year. Last year it worked fine as my co-conspirator Mike could cover the Saturday last year while I did the Friday and Sunday. This time around, Mike is far more occupied as bassist/vocalist for Wort, bassist for Pist, and a promoter in his own right with Manchester-based CLDH. He was back on the road with Pist on the Saturday, and he always wrote for us voluntarily, and I would never hold him down to ensure a full report here. So that left me, myself and I, and owing to a clash of dates and occasions I could never commit fully to this year’s fest. Hence I appealed for anyone attending if they’d like to voluntarily contribute with a review of Sunday’s coverage that I’d be most grateful for. That has not been forthcoming yet, and so we can only leave it there. I hate for this review to be incomplete, but there are times when my family come above all else and Sunday was one of those days. So if anyone out there has anything to add, please do let us know. We may feature it.
Thanks once again to Paul Priest for making us welcome at this festival, and all involved in the organisation of the festival from promoting to playing and trying to make the thing run like clockwork. And cheers to the fans who like me came out in support of this fest. I will always remember the first moshpit human pyramid! I had a blast watching these bands and Mike I’m sure will say the same about playing the fest and checking out some of the bands too. We’ve been proud to support this festival from its origins as a one-dayer, and we are proud to have been there almost all the way to the end. Because sadly, as a follow up post will detail, this really is it, though we can always hope for its spirit to live on in the future should it be reinvented or reanimated in any way.
We will have a full gallery of photos from the fest during our attendance on Friday and Saturday very soon.